In the 1880s, architects in Chicago and New York had begun to experiment with new framing systems to achieve greater height. The skyscraper is America’s most conspicuous contribution to architecture; the first one being built in Chicago in 1884.

Louis Sullivan designed the most graceful early towers and was America’s first great modern architect. His most talented student was Frank Lloyd Wright and both were active in Chicago.

O’Keeffe: City Night, 1926

O’Keeffe: Radiator Building at Night, 1927

At a time when O’Keeffe searched for her own way to paint cityscapes, not like the men, not like the Europeans, but like an American, it may have been Bragdon’s admiration for Louis Sullivan, that gave her the impulse to paint skyscrapers.

Sullivan’s Jugendstil architecture after all, was all about life force, organic life and vitality – concepts deeply rooted in symbolist theory.

She may also have been inspired by the fact that during 1925 and 1926, there were 45 new skyscrapers built in Manhattan.O’Keeffe: East River from the 30th Story of the Shelton, 1928

View of New York City’s East River shows midtown Manhattan in the foreground and Long Island City (Queens) in the background, as seen from the 30th floor of the Shelton Hotel, where O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz lived between 1925 and 1936.

It is worth noting that the exaggerated scale of the skyscraper is in itself a typical romantic element.

Remember Runge’s larger than life children and Pippi Longstocking?

Books, links

Chicago Landmarks – link

Louis Sullivan on Wiki
Frank Lloyd Wright on Wiki


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